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Hearts have been breaking across the internet over a viral Facebook Live video of Quaden Bayles, a nine-year-old Australian boy with dwarfism who tells his mother he’d rather die than endure the bullying he faces at school.
“I want someone to kill me,” Quaden says in the video, as he sits and cries out of an open car door. “Give me a knife.”
His mother, Yarraka Bayles, can be heard pleading with her followers for advice.
“I’ve got to constantly keep my eye on him because of the suicide attempts,” says Bayles, who appears to be filming off-camera. “This is the impact that bullying has,” she adds.
“And you wonder why kids are killing themselves.”
The six-minute clip has spread far and wide, with more than 23 million views on Facebook and nearly as many reactions. Yarraka Bayles recorded the video on Wednesday, after Quaden’s classmates allegedly drove him to tears again with their bullying.
The Indigenous boy was diagnosed with Achondroplasia dwarfism shortly after he was born, Bayles says. She says the condition has forced him to endure bullying “every single freaking day” for many years.
Quaden’s suffering has moved thousands of people to reach out with messages of support, including several high-profile actors and comedians.
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Perhaps no one has stepped up more than Brad Williams, an L.A.-based comedian who grew up with the same condition.
“He’s going to know there are wonderful people out there and that he is loved.”
Williams initially set a $10,000 fundraising goal for the campaign, but the response has completely shattered that goal. The crowdfunding campaign had raised more than $329,000 by Friday afternoon.
Quaden has also received several messages of support from actors who play on-screen heroes such as Wolverine, Luke Skywalker and the Punisher.
“Quaden, you are stronger than you know, mate,” Australia native Hugh Jackman said in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday.
“No matter what, you’ve got a friend in me. So everyone, let’s please be kind to each other. Bullying is not OK.”
— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) February 20, 2020
“The cruelty is as astonishing as it is heartbreaking,” Mark Hamill tweeted in response to the video.
“For what it’s worth you have taught my family so much,” actor Jon Bernthal tweeted. “You have inspired us and in our home you are a hero. Thank you for your courage, stay strong the world is watching and you have so much beautiful power.”
Share the love with this sweet angel! Seriously want him to see that bullies don’t control his life and there’s a whole world out there that loves him for who he is and that’s a beautiful human being! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/g5jykciUJO
— PAIGE (@RealPaigeWWE) February 20, 2020
Suspicions arise online
Although the response to Quaden’s story has been largely positive, there has also been an undercurrent of suspicion, with some claiming that Quaden is an actor seeking to profit from viral fame, or that he’s an adult posing as a child.
Much of the suspicion has swirled around Quaden’s dedicated Instagram account. The account appears to be legitimate, as it’s interlinked with other accounts that belong to Quaden’s family members, including his mother.
Some of Quaden’s posts are also mirrored on his mother’s account.
Several photos on the account show Quaden celebrating at an 18th birthday party, riding in toy cars and wearing designer clothing. One clip shows him flashing stacks of cash. The cash video was posted on Feb. 15, before Yarraka recorded the live Facebook video.
Global News has reached out to the Bayles family about the posts, but as of this writing has not received a reply.
“Due to the large volume of messages, we are unable to respond to everyone at this time as we need time to process as a family and would like to ask that media respect the family’s wishes, they are not taking calls and will be speaking to First Nations Media only at this time,” the family said in a statement posted on Yarraka’s Instagram page on Thursday. The statement was also posted on Quaden’s account.
Suspicious users have also been sharing screenshots of an online actor profile that appears to belong to Quaden. The account includes numerous photos of Quaden, and it’s listed as being run by his legal guardian. The profile describes him as eight years old, and includes links to three videos from a few years ago.
Claims that Quaden is an adult appear to be bogus. Quaden was featured in two lengthy profile stories published by Australian media back in 2015. He was identified as four years old at the time, and the videos are still available on YouTube accounts belonging to Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service and the Studio 10 morning show.
Comedian Brad Williams acknowledged the tremendous response to his fundraiser for Quaden on Friday, while also trying to assure the public that everything about the boy is above-board.
“Money donated will not be wasted!” he tweeted.
“We have a team of people making sure everything is completely legitimate. We thank you for your generosity and patience while we make sure all this is done in the right way.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.